“How have you been?”
Who else has had that conversation a thousand times? Busy has become the default for most of us. We’re all rushing through life, like we’re trying our best to hang in there and keep our head above water. We try to cram so much into our days that it’s no wonder we go to bed with a racing mind, only to realize that’s the first down time we’ve had of the day. Know the feeling?
I’m very guilty of falling into the busy trap. “I’ve been really busy” is my answer to people’s questions about how I’m doing or what I’ve been up to. I rush from task to task, meeting to meeting. It’s a viscious cycle, isn’t it? I have been trying to remove “I’ve been busy” from my vocabulary, and it’s tough! It seems to be the standard answer to the question. But I’ve been challenging myself to think of new answers, ones with a bit more substance to them. Saying I’m busy is the easy thing to do, but that doesn’t help me connect with the other person in any meaningful way.
Productivity is not measured by how much we pack into our days. It’s about using our time wisely to accomplish great things. Time is the scarcest resource we have, so it’s super important to use it intentionally.
This post is part of the “From Overwhelmed To Organized: Making Time For All The Stuff” series, where we’re discussing a variety of ideas and actionable advice for smart time management. Jump back to the beginning of the series here.
How To Stop Being So Busy
Are you ready to banish the frazzled, frantic feeling that has your stomach in knots? As with most things in life, admitting you want to change is the first step. Reflect on why you want to break the busy cycle, and commit to taking action. Here are eight simple suggestions you can try to stop being so busy all the time and start living with purpose and clarity.
1 | Realize that busyness is a choice.
I’m going to start off blunt: Busyness is your fault. You have a choice in everything you do, so if you are feeling frantic and hurried all the time, your decisions got you there. While that may seem harsh at first and some things in life may seem out of your control right now, you can regain control of your time. Guard your time closely and be mindful about what you are committing your limited time to.
Just the other day, I was asked to bring something to a potluck coming up this weekend. First of all, I’m no cook so I never volunteer to prepare anything too elaborate. I usually stick with fruit skewers or a pan of bars, but even those take more time than I have to spare this weekend. So I signed up to bring chips and salsa, which requires no extra work on my part because I was already planning to get groceries. I could have killed myself creating super cute fruit skewers–perfectly color-coded like I usually do, but I decided my time was more important this weekend. I am already devoting time to the potluck event itself, and that’s plenty.
2 | Stop saying you are busy.
Instead of telling people about how “busy” you’ve been, share a project you have been working on for months or a recent achievement you are proud of. In addition to not uttering the word “busy,” you will also make more meaningful connections by offering a real, thoughtful response to their question about how you are doing. This will likely take some work, as most of us seem to be in the habit of mindlessly replying with “I’ve been really busy.”
I have been challenging myself to reply with more thoughtful answers, which takes effort. I’ve found it helpful to think of some answers beforehand, like at the beginning of the day. I think to myself…”When someone asks me what I’ve been up to lately, what could I tell them about?” I’ll brainstorm a few ideas, like the decorating project I’m working on at home or maybe the big project I finally finished at work the other day. Sharing meaningful answers has helped me connect with others at a different level than when I reply with the expected “busy” answer. Give it a try!
3 | Design your ideal weekly routine.
No matter what your schedule looks like, figure out a routine that works for you. Creating a weekly schedule will help you map out time for everything you have going on, and it will allow you to purposefully set aside time to unwind and relax. Having a routine in place will help you get a true picture of how much time you have to spare when requests for your time come up during the week.
Crafting a weekly routine is super important! So important that I created an entire email course to help you create your own routine. Enroll in the FREE course, Crush Your Week, and I’ll walk you through the process of mapping out a routine that makes time for everything you have going on.
4 | Reclaim your free time.
It’s important to plan time for self-care and rest. If you don’t intentionally build it into your schedule, it’s too easy to over-schedule yourself to the point of being nonstop busy. Make sure you leave white space in your day for breaks and rest. Taking care of yourself is so important! I blogged more about how to make “me time” a priority here.
I’ve realized that sometimes the most productive thing I can do is take time to myself to refuel. In order to be at your best for everyone and everything else in your day, you need to take care of YOU. You deserve that time to unwind and recharge.
5 | Be present during downtime.
In a world where distractions are everywhere, it can be difficult to stop being so busy long enough to slow down and actually be present when you do have time to relax. Take time to recharge, and actually soak in that free time. It’s habit for me to immediately pick up my phone and start checking my updates and news feeds, but that means I’m not fully in the moment. When you make time to enjoy your favorite show, read a good book or spend time with a friend, put the phone away and focus on enjoying that time.
A lot of us think we don’t have much free time, but it’s just because we’re always trying to multitask when we do. I try to be as efficient as possible, so I’m definitely at fault on this. And it’s okay to multitask during some things, like how I create a weekly meal plan while lounging on the couch watching a good show. But if I really want to relax and destress, I try to limit the distractions and unplug.
6 | Get clear on your priorities.
If something is truly important to you, you will find a way to make time for it. Think about all of the things going on in your life, and decide which of them are your biggest priorities. You may find that you are spending the most time on the obligations that are least important to you. As the saying goes, it’s better to do a few things well than to do many things halfway. Work on weeding out the to-dos that don’t align with your priorities, so you can stop being so busy and have more time for what you care about.
7 | Delegate and automate tasks.
Try to avoid, automate or delegate these tasks whenever possible. Unless you are a master at time management, there are numerous activities in your day that are not important and not urgent. In fact, they may not need to be done at all. These are often routine tasks that you feel obligated to do. Spend as little time as possible on the things that don’t align with your priorities or bring you closer to your goals.
I heard some great advice on this subject recently. At the end of each day, write down two tasks from your day that could have been avoided or done by someone else. Add to this list for a week or two, and then take some time to find alternatives to them. Could you hire someone to do it? Could someone else in your family assume that responsibility? Is there a tool or system you could utilities to automate the process? What happens if you stop doing it altogether?
8 | Recognize the value of saying “no.”
“Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.” ~ Peter Drucker
It is very easy to get wrapped up in being as productive as possible, but make sure you also evaluate if the task is even worth doing in the first place. It may be hard to believe, but your world will not fall apart just because you turn something down. In fact, saying no to one thing frees up room for something much better to come along. Put your energy into what matters, and don’t be afraid to say “no” to requests that don’t align with your priorities or don’t fit into your schedule right now. Remember, you are in control of your time!
If you are feeling frazzled and frantic, take a deep breath and set a goal of making one or two small improvements in the next couple days. It may take some time to get to a place where you can stop being so busy, but I know you will get there. Make gradual changes, guard your time carefully and set up a daily routine.
Ready to commit to getting your schedule in order and stop being so busy? You’re in luck! Get started right now with my free course, Crush Your Week. Enroll now and learn to design an intentional weekly routine in just five days.
More From The “Overwhelmed To Organized: Making Time For All The Stuff” Series
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